Sunday, April 22, 2012

Philip Humber Hurls 21st MLB Perfect Game; Cory Luebke Gets Win for Padres over Phillies

Players of the Day for Saturday, April 21, 2012

American League

In the regular flow of life, perfection is often the aim, but seldom the target achieved.

Philip Humber
In baseball, perfect games have been thrown only 20 times in the lengthy annals of the American pastime... until Saturday, April 21, when Chicago's Philip Humber set down all 27 Mariner batters in order, making him the 21st pitcher to enter the history books with baseball's rarest of rarities with a 4-0 White Sox win at Seattle.

Humber's gem was the first instance of "27 up, 27 down" since Roy Halladay shut down the then-Florida Marlins on May 28, 2010, in a 1-0 duel with Marlin starter Josh Johnson.

This was not only Humber's first no-hitter, it was also the first complete game shutout of his brief major league career. Humber pitched in eight games for the Royals in 2010, was traded to the white Sox in the off-season and started 26 games for Chicago in 2011, earning a 9-9 record with a 3.75 ERA.

His start in Seattle was just his second this season, after going 5 1/3 without a decision, April 14 against Baltimore, allowing six hits and one earned run.

The tension rising with every pitch as the final inning came to pass, FOX Sports switched coverage from their broadcast of the Yankees-Red Sox game at Fenway over to the developing drama. With a nationwide TV audience locked in, Humber started the ninth by striking out Michael Saunders swinging, then induced a pop-up from pinch-hitter John Jaso.

Getting the final out was perhaps the most difficult task, as pinch-hitter Brendan Ryan worked the count to 3-2. Humber delivered a low, outside slider that surely looked like ball four. Though Ryan checked his swing, it wasn't enough to convince home plate umpire Brian Runge, who signaled him out. The ball had skipped off catcher A. J. Pierzynski's glove, bounding about 20 feet from home plate between first base and the dugout, but, by the time Ryan stopped arguing the call and running to first, Pierzynski had thrown a bullet to first baseman Paul Konerko for the final out.

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Humber's teammates mobbed the field, knocking the 29-year-old to the ground in a wild celebration. Humber regained his feet in short order to receive congratulations from his team.

Humber struck out nine, got five ground outs and 13 outs via fly balls. Throwing 67 of 96 pitches for strikes, Humber's effort was the first perfect game with under 100 pitches since David Cone turned the trick for the Yankees on July 18, 1999, a 6-0 interleague win over the Montreal Expos, now the Washington Nationals.

The perfect game overshadowed what was one heck of a ball game at Fenway. The Red Sox had a commanding 9-0 lead on the Yankees after five innings, but scored one in the sixth on Mark Teixeira's solo shot, and then erupted for seven runs in each of the seventh and eighth innings for the 15-9 final score. Teixeira and Nick Swisher each went 3-for-6 with six RBI. Swisher hit a grand slam in the 7th; Teixeira followed that with a three run blast of his own. Both players drove in two runs with doubles in the eighth inning.

National League

Cory Luebke
Not quite perfection, but San Diego's Cory Leubke turned in a solid performance as the Padres upended Roy Halladay and the Phillies, 5-1.

Improving to 2-1, Luebke allowed just two hits and surrenders a pair of walks, shutting out the Phillies for eight innings, striking out five. Huston Street worked the ninth, allowing the only run of the game by Philadelphia.

Like Humber, Luebke is another starter with plenty of upside. A product of Ohio State, Luebke has just 24 starts under his belt and a 9-12 record, all with San Diego.

The Padres dropped the first two of their four-game series with Philadelphia before turning the tables on Saturday, and will try to even things up in the Sunday finale.

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